Effectiveness of short-term and long-term psychotherapy on work ability and functional capacity--a randomized clinical trial on depressive and anxiety disorders

J Affect Disord. 2008 Apr;107(1-3):95-106. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2007.08.005. Epub 2007 Sep 5.


Background: Insufficient evidence exists about the effect of different therapies on work ability for patients with psychiatric disorders. The present study compares improvements in work ability in two short-term therapies and one long-term therapy.

Methods: In the Helsinki Psychotherapy Study, 326 outpatients with depressive or anxiety disorder were randomly assigned to long-term and short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy, and solution-focused therapy. The patients were followed for 3 years from the start of treatment. Primary outcome measures were the Work Ability Index (WAI), the Work-subscale (SAS-Work) of the Social Adjustment Scale (SAS-SR), Perceived Psychological Functioning Scale, the prevalence of patients employed or studying, and the number of sick-leave days.

Results: Work ability was statistically significantly improved according to WAI (15%), SAS-Work (17%), and Perceived Psychological Functioning Scale (21%) during the 3-year follow-up. No differences in the work ability scores were found between two short-term therapies. The short-term therapies showed 4-11% more improved work ability scores than long-term therapy at the 7 month follow-up point. During the second year of follow-up, no significant differences were found between therapies. After 3 years of follow-up, long-term therapy was more effective than the short-term therapies with 5-12% more improved scores. No differences in the prevalence of individuals employed or studying or in the number of sick-leave days were found between therapies during follow-up.

Conclusions: Short-term therapies give benefits more quickly than long-term therapy on work ability but in the long run long-term therapy is more effective than short-term therapies. More research is needed to confirm these findings.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods
  • Self-Evaluation Programs
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Adjustment
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Work / physiology
  • Work / psychology*
  • Work Capacity Evaluation*